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Social Media Can Help With Branding, Not Engagement!

Many marketers today are looking to increase their Facebook fans, LinkedIn memberships and/or Twitter followers. Social media marketing is a new buzz-word in both b2b and b2c domains.

But, when it comes to engagement, how easy is it to measure the engagement-level of your Facebook fans or LinkedIn Group Members?  How easy is it to interact with them and nurture them?  How easy is it to get usage and engagement metrics out of Facebook, LinkedIn et al?  Is it even possible?  Can you act on the metrics?

External social sites are good for brand-building (or reach) but not for interaction or engagement.

A recent Gartner report cited that a mere six percent of marketers claim that marketing on social networking sites is their top priority. What is even more powerful is that 45 percent of those surveyed said corporate websites were key contributors to marketing success.  And from the customer perspective, four out of five customers claim to visit a website for product information and only a mere 19 percent would visit a Facebook page, according to Incyte Group.

So, while you need to be active on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for branding purposes; you also need to be able to build and nurture customer and user communities on your own web site for interaction and engagement.

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Visitors to your site are interested in what you’ve got – why drive them to another site where they could get distracted? You need to engage your site visitors with both content & interactions.  And to an extent, this is already happening.  Forrester Research claims that nearly 70 percent of b2b buyers visit vendor communities for more information.

By shifting the approach to pull customers to your site, instead of pushing them to other over-crowded communities, you’ll be able to use your website for all sorts of new activities that can benefit your organization, such as engaging customers in online chats, which can drive down service and support costs; leveraging your customers’ collective brainpower to improve product development efforts (the power of crowdsourcing is limitless) an so on. You’ll also find new ways to increase brand engagement and build customer loyalty as well as enhance overall customer and partner satisfaction.  Examples of these can be leveraging customer feedback for new product development, monitoring the frequency in which a customer contributes to the community, determining partner support and much more.

There are two ways to build communities on your website.  One way is to have a new social or community portal that sits alongside your content portal, resulting in your online presence being powered by 2 disparate systems.  That is what I call ‘loosely-coupled’.  With a ‘loosely-coupled’ online presence – it is more difficult to set-up marketing campaigns; in addition, integration with your other business systems becomes twice as complex.  This isn’t effective.

Social Media Can Help With Branding, Not Engagement!  image Navin for b2c 300x221

The better way is to make your web site itself social … to manage your online presence with a single system that helps you both manage content and communities; to provide a holistic & immersive experience to your site visitors.

By leveraging a unified corporate site that is social; that both publishes content and interacts with the community, marketers can more easily and accurately measure and analyze the level of engagement, what products the customer is interested in, what questions need answering and have a stronger opportunity to cross-sell by linking conversations with other product pages.

Is your website a one-stop shop for both content & engagement? It should be.

Comments on this Article: 13

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  1. Ankush R Chavan says:

    Nice article. Worth reading. Social media may attract a crowd but not business always. Its same like thousands of people visits a mall everyday but not all are shopping there or a leader can pull a huge crowd (voters) for his rally but cannot convert the same in votes.

  2. Gil says:

    So… the effective approach is to build a social media platform exclusive for the company?!
    wouldn’t it be more effective to approach clients where the clients are, every day? The down side would be that you need to build up content to be effective in each social network you’re active on. however, being where the client is (social networks) would be more effective than building your own network and expecting clients to use it? they’ll probably use it to make complaints and get some kind of support.

  3. @Gil … The effective approach depends on the company — its size, # of customers, # of prospects etc. For a small business owner, using a social network such as FB Fan Pages or LinkedIn is still the best option. However, for larger companies, it is worth looking into the option of building their own communities, and on their own online web site or portal, even as they use social media for furthering their market reach.

  4. Cheyserr says:

    I agree with you Navin, it is very important that you build your site, create awesome content. But I think it is also important that you spend some time with social media and I might disagree with your statement that social media can’t help with engagement. As a business, it is important that you can reach and interact with your customers in any medium that they are familiar with. In my own experience, right after I turn on my computer, I open my facebook, twitter, and other social media sites immediately. I think there are lots of customers who shares the same experience with me.

  5. Love the article, Navin. Well done. Coupling content and community is critical since 75% of vendor content is not trusted. ONly with the customers’ voice included can vendor trust be accelerated.

  6. @Christine … Thank You. You make a great point about ‘trust’. When you publish information about your products/company — it is essentially marketing spin. If that page also has positive community activity, it helps build trust.

    Interestingly, Amazon was doing this very effectively way before ‘social’ became a buzzword.

  7. @Cheyserr … I think it depends on how you define ‘engagement’. If engagement is a one-off interaction or two, you can absolutely do it with social media. My point was that for building ‘relationships’, you need ‘continuous engagement’ – and for that you need to build the center of gravity around your own web site.

    One analogy (it is not the best one) I can think of is – As a business you go to an expo. Why? Because there are 10,000 people at the expo. You mail them. You have a booth and interact with them. You build ‘interest’ in 100 or 200 of them. And, then you continue the dialogue even as you return to your company offices. That is where you build relationships and/or close business. The expo is very important for reach – it is the front-end of the funnel. Engagement and closure and relationship-building happen at the rear-end of the funnel.

  8. Laurence says:

    Great article, Navin, thanks a lot. I totally agree with you that engagement is not a one-off action and needs to be sustained in the long term. I think that social media to an extent can help sustain engagement, but you are right to say that a built-in social platform on your website can be a good strategy as well- as long as you have the resources to manage it, don’t you think?

  9. @Laurence … You are absolutely right in that building your own social platform costs both time and money. It is also not for everybody or for companies of all sizes. Very small businesses are better off just having FB fan pages et al. But, for larger companies (perhaps companies with > 500 employees) it is important to have their own social media platform for better engagement, and for complete ownership of usage data.

  10. Jason HJH says:

    Thank you for the article Navin.

    Although I disagree with the headline, I must say that you wrote this with good intentions.

    You’re right. Ultimately, brands should drive traffic to their website, and (hopefully) build a local community.

    But I think you might be looking at the issue of social media from a different perspective. What most brands currently do right now is to seek and engage with customers where they are. Social mediums give your websites more visibility. Without them, what are the odds of you getting the word about your online presence out to them?

    Plus, I haven’t come across a single brand that “pushes” their customers to social networks, unless you’re talking about social buttons featured on brands’ websites that ask people to “like” their page or “follow” them on Twitter. If it’s the latter, it’s simply a case of building a channel for these brands to engage with them conveniently, again, where they often go to. Few customers, if any, check out a brand’s website for updates that often, except for marketplaces and ecommerce like Groupon, Amazon and eBay. For most other brands, their best bet to bring awareness to their corporate announcements/events/promotions/products is to reach out to them where they already are – Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest and the like.

  11. @Jason … Thank you for your kind words.

    I agree with you that a lot of brands interact with customers on horizontal & large social networks such as LinkedIn, FB and Twitter. I also think many times there is a ‘back and forth’ there that is needed — like when a customer is upset with a large food chain and tweets about it, there are customer support folks who monitor the tweets and respond to ensure the negativity doesn’t spiral out of control.

    My only point though is … to build real and ongoing engagement, you have to do it in your own social network, and on your own website. Apart from the companies you mentioned, there are other companies who do it. Cleveland Clinic is a great example of a company that leverages social media to drive traffic to their own web site and build engagement. Take a look at their presentation here …

    http://tinyurl.com/cb74du2

  12. Shivnath Kandi says:

    This is a very thought provoking ‘conversation’…Must ruminate over it..Good Navin..you’ve set our grey matter working…also some comments like Jason’s make a lot of sense too…

  13. Very interesting. I enjoyed reading your article and the other comments. In my opinion branding and engagement are important in social media. This two should be applied if your doing social media works. I am applying this two and its works fine. Thank you for sharing this article. Appreciated a lot.

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